The 4 Stages of Mastering a Technique

I’ve been teaching martial arts for long enough now to recognize some patterns with new students.

This article is about the specific process of mastering a technique.

Not an entire art.

For that I’d recommend “Mastery” by George Leonard.

Here’s a picture of what mastering a technique looks like.

Perfection of Technique

The video at the end of this article will walk you through each Stage individually.

Stage 1: Complete Lack of Coordination in a Technique
This is the most important stage to understand, because most students never make it past this one.

Punching and kicking is a bit intuitive, at least compared to things like grappling.

And you know what they say: Sometimes a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Learning the proper body mechanics behind a strike, and developing the coordination so that every muscle activates at the perfect time, takes a lot of practice.

At first you’ll actually lose power and accuracy.

Remember: This is a good thing.

It means you’re retraining your body.

If you’re not messing things up, you’re probably not doing anything new.

And if you’re here to learn, you must be willing to do things that your body has no context for and, therefore, that you’ll suck at at first.

Of course, most people’s egos won’t allow for this, so they revert back to just “swinging for the fences” and enjoying a great cardio workout…a great…cardio…workout…CARDIO…WORKOUT–> (Not learning martial arts!)

Stage 2: Inefficient Technique
This is where you might question the usefulness of a technique.

Because now you’ve got it down.

You hit hard and with beautiful form on the mitts.

You can land it in drills.

But every time you attempt it in sparring, you usually end up paying for it.

Perhaps it IS a crap technique.

But more likely is you just need to develop the proper timing, and the ability to recognize opportunities to use it before the opportunity is past.

Don’t give up on it just yet!

Stage 3: Proficiency in a Technique
Now we’re at the spot where your hard work pays off.

You’ve figured out how to incorporate the technique into your arsenal and to use it effectively in sparring.

It’s a great feeling, and now’s a great time to really focus on honing the next technique and add it to your “bag o’ tricks”.

Stage 4: Mastery of a Technique
Disclaimer: True mastery isn’t possible. You can always become better at something.

That said, most champions I know have a small handful of techniques that they chisel away at and develop far beyond merely being proficient at it.

Bruce Lee developed his Lead Straight punch to the point where he could hit people, even if they knew it was coming!

To see a demo, click on the video below (go about 30 seconds in):



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